The Tulsa Zoo has advanced to the semi-final round of Microsoft’s “America’s Favorite Zoo” contest, which is being held in conjunction with the release of its popular “Zoo Tycoon 2” video game. A panel of expert judges reduced an original pool of 50 nominated zoos to 15 semi-finalists based on their scores in seven categories. Now the choice of America’s Favorite Zoo is in the hands of the public. Tulsa Zoo asks that everyone visit www.tulsazoo.org and connect to the official online ballot and cast their vote for Tulsa Zoo. Microsoft will announce the winner of the title of America’s Favorite Zoo and a $25,000 grant on November 16.
Tulsa Zoo staff learned of the zoo’s nomination for the contest in early August, and was challenged with putting together an entry that would prove why Tulsa Zoo should be America’s Favorite Zoo. The answer was a mad-capped “audition tape,” which takes the viewer on a whirlwind tour of the zoo; paying homage to the Zoo Tycoon game, Bill Gates, soap operas, and The Blair Witch Project along the way. To accompany the video, zoo staff painted a three-foot penguin sculpture—a smaller version of the popular penguin sculptures found throughout Tulsa—to resemble Bill Gates. Arrow Trucking Company generously donated their services to take “Penguin Bill” and the materials to Microsoft Game Studios in Redmond, Washington.
According to zoo spokesperson Marnie Ducato, Microsoft was quite impressed with Tulsa Zoo’s entry. “We actually had a Microsoft employee call us directly to tell us that they loved our penguins and they invited the whole staff to come see it,” commented Ducato. “Apparently we got in the top 15 by a unanimous vote of all the judges.
The semi-final round of the contest will yield five finalists to be announced on November 1. The final round of online voting begins immediately on November 2, and the winner is announced on November 16. The contest will award the winning zoo a $25,000 grant to fund its habitat and animal care programs.